Making Sense of God's Will
One man said to Martin Luther, “Everything goes against me. Nothing I wish for ever comes true. My hopes go wrong. My plans never work out.”
“My dear friend, that is your own fault,” replied Luther.
“My own fault?” queried the friend.
“Yes,” affirmed Luther. “Why do you pray every day, ‘Thy will be done’? You ought to pray ‘My will be done.’ But if you pray that God’s will should be done and not yours, you should be satisfied if God does as you pray.”
Much confusion about the will of God originates from mistaking our will for His will or from trying to impose our wishes upon His purposes. In order to avoid such confusion, let us consider once again some basic principles about the will of God.
1. REVELATION OF GOD’S WILL
God Reveals His Will in the Word of God
The Christian who desires to know the will of God must read the Word of God, for this is the only infallible record of His thoughts and plans. Contractors spend hours with blueprints in order to build the construction according to specifications. They cannot afford to overlook the smallest detail. Likewise, if believers want to harmonize with the plans of God, they must spend a great deal of time with the blueprints drawn up in the Bible. The Scripture says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Someone has well said that “the devil is not afraid of the Bible that has dust on it.” The Book we take for granted and often neglect was not even available to the public 600 years ago. After the invention of printing in 1440, the Bible became available in a limited quantity, but people still had to stand in line and pay for the privilege of reading God’s Word for only a few minutes.
How times have changed! Now you can purchase a Bible at Chapters or Walmart for just a few dollars. Or you can read it on a Bible app for free. It is, therefore, all the more inexcusable that men do not know the will of God, for it is easily accessible in His own inerrant revelation. People today do not know the will of God because they do not know the Word of God. To the extent that we know the Word of God, we can determine the will of God.
God Reveals His Will by the Testimony of His Spirit
God also reveals His will by the testimony of His Spirit to the Christian heart. “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness” (Psalm 143:10). The Holy Spirit has promised to guide believers into all truth. The Spirit works in the life of a yielded believer to impress him with the direction he should go and the decisions he should make. The Christian who walks in the Spirit can discern the voice of the Spirit speaking to him, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it…” (Isaiah 30:21).
Naturally, all the voices and sounds that reach the believer’s ears do not come from the Holy Spirit, and so it is again necessary to know well, the Word of God. The Spirit of God never prompts the believer to do anything which the Word of God forbids. The Word of God is the objective criterion by which to judge the subjective experiences which we feel.
God Reveals His Will Through Circumstances
God reveals His will also through circumstances. Acts 16:6-7 indicates Paul and his companions “were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.” Our background, education, social status, race, talents, interests, and personal taste are all God-ordered; and providentially they contribute to our understanding of what God’s will is. Sometimes God overrules all our circumstances and leads us in ways which none of the circumstances seemed to indicate. Incapacities, like blindness, can point to what God wants us to do or not to do. (It is doubtful that God is directing a blind man to take up proofreading). On the other hand, an incapacity might be used of the Lord to open doors of opportunity that would be otherwise closed to the child of God.
2. THE RECOGNITION OF GOD’S WILL
God has an order and plan for all things. Whether it be the stars or the snowflakes, He has a design. It is only reasonable to believe that God has a personal plan for the life of every Christian. Man is God’s highest creature, created after God’s own image, and given dominion over every other earthly creature. It is difficult to imagine that such a being has no part in a divine plan.
But we do not need to rely upon the arguments of reason to support the contention that God’s purpose for His creatures are personal because the Bible expressly states it: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way” (Psalm 37:25). David certainly believed that God had specific plans for him, for he cried, “Teach me to do thy will…” (Psalm 143:10). Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
The divine plans for man are not only personal but perfect. Even the most skilled architects make mistakes, but God’s design is good and acceptable and perfect—“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). Unfortunately, not all Christians strive to know and do God’s perfect will. Many settle for God’s permissive will. Instead of obeying God’s perfect plan and going, for instance, to the mission field, many young people today allow the desire for security and affluence to rule their lives and must now settle for God’s second best.
God can still use us regardless of our past failures. He can turn our mistakes into blessings. Every believer can hold on to the fact of Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” But let’s not be content with ourselves that God will overrule our disobedience and indiscretions for good. Rather, let us determine to enter into the fulness of His perfect plan.
3. THE REFLECTIONS OF GOD’S WORD
The will of God is far more than a theoretical and philosophical matter. It is just as practical as it can be. The Word of God gives a thousand explicit directives—commands which represent the will of God. In these areas where the Word of God is clear, no believer should have any problem about God’s will for him. In short, these divine orders are related to our becoming more and more like Christ. It is God’s will for us to be conformed to the image of His Son. It is God’s will for Christians to follow the examples of the Saviour, to respond to the circumstances of life as He did. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Christians cannot hope to unravel the mysteries of those matters about which the Bible is silent, while they are ignoring those matters about which the Bible is vocal. In other words, when the Christian begins to act upon the light which the Word of God has already shed upon his problem, he will then begin to get light upon those areas which the Bible does not specifically treat. No Christian young person, for instance can hope that God will direct them to the right college or career when that same young person defies the Word of God with respect to the present company he keeps. Psalm 119:105 reminds us, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
The will of God, then, is reflected in the Christian’s obedience. It shows up in everything we do and think and say. It manifests itself in everything which we are and will become by His grace. It appears in all our responses to today’s opportunities. It is reflected in our mannerisms and attitudes. The Christian’s whole demeanour in the world ought to be a daily object lesson of what it means to know and do the will of God.
“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17)